Berkshire County transit strike affecting transportation for the disabled
BERKSHIRE COUNTY (WRGB) - Charlene Wehry waits with her son at the same bus stop every day. She says her son has Autism and can't drive. She says he relies on Berkshire Regional Transit Authority buses to get to his college classes in North Adams.
"The bus stops and he gets on. Never had a problem. Now there's nothing but problems," Wehry said.
Since all the paratransit bus drivers and dispatchers for the BRTA started a strike on Monday, Wehry has had to pick up most of the driving duties.
"I have to take a 40 minute ride up to drop him off, then back home then back up to MCLA and then back home,” Wehry said.
The local union representing the drivers and dispatchers say they rejected a contract with the BRTA on Sunday. Since then all 16 drivers and dispatchers have taken turns striking outside this facility since 5 a.m. on Monday. They're asking for higher wages. The BRTA said in a press release that their most recent contract offer proposed a 16 percent pay increase for full-time paratransit operators and a 19.6 percent increase for part-time paratransit operators.
"Third day, no pay,” said a marcher.
Dispatcher Tim Potter says this affects everyone, including him.
"I'm working for the company but I'm also disabled at the same time so I know how much it means to a lot of the people that we serve” Potter said.
The BRTA did not respond to our requests for an interview, but said on their website that've subcontracted with other bus companies to provide temporary services during the strike. They also say that supervisors and other employees have agreed to help keep some routes open.
As for Wehry, she says those temporary services haven't helped her. She thinks she can make it through the semester. But she's not sure what she'll do after that.
"For the next two weeks, we have got a gameplan. For the next semester, I don't have a gameplan,” Wehry said.
As for the strikers, they say they'll continue to march on until they reach a compromise.